An Anglican Karoo Christmas

The lovely St Peter’s Anglican Church in Cradock.

By Julienne du Toit

Photographs by Chris Marais

About a week ago our friend Larry Collett said something about driving in from Fish River into Cradock for Church at St Peter’s on Christmas morning, so we thought why not? The last time Chris and I were in church around Christmas time was in 2005.

Coincidentally it was also an Anglican church, but in London. St Matthews on Bayswater Road.

Back then we settled into a pew among a smallish crowd of older people, dressed in heavy overcoats and furry hats.

The priest intoned: “For unto us a child is born, unto us a child is given.”

Candles were lit in this vast church, and the red poinsettias glowed. We prayed for those in the Middle East, Sudan and Zimbabwe, for all refugees in the world, all the sick, all the lonely and all the homeless. Then we began to sing the carols.

The St Matthews choir was really good, but we were in a mood for singing, so we joined them for a few numbers. They seemed to like it, but the rest of the congregation (who looked like a lot of stiff upper-lip-synch specialists) turned around stunned.

Pretty soon, however, they figured out we were ‘not from here’ and even smiled as we soldiered on lustily through the list of carols. Hark the Herald. Oh Little Town of. Away in a manger. We Three Kings. That sort of stuff.

Bree Street in Cradock, where several noble old churches can be found.

Unlike the rest of London, there were actual English people here, many of them with dogs that lay quietly on the floor between the pews. The priest shook our hands warmly as we left.

We did the same this year at St Peter’s in Cradock. I could almost become an Anglican simply to sit in this lovely building.

We sang our hearts out, clutching the Anglican book of Ancient and Modern Hymns. Hark the Herald rocked the rafters.

Our neighbours from across the road were sitting in front of us (Alet, Lewis, Waki and Helen) said they were delighted to have singers behind them.

Larry, we were astonished to find, was the organist.

At the blessing part we hugged friends, shook hands warmly with strangers and waved smiles to the ones at the back.

We even went for communion (me an illegal because I am not confirmed in any faith). I can report back that the wafers are tasteless. But the wine was sweet and carried a kick. And they give each one a generous sluk before primly wiping the silver goblet and moving to the next person.

The singing was definitely louder after communion…

St Matthews Anglican Church in London’s Bayswater Road.

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